Super-Earth worlds are planets that are bigger than our Earth but smaller than Neptune. We don’t have such planets in the Solar System.

Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail discovered the first super-Earth worlds, with masses about four times Earth, around a pulsar star (PSR B1257+12) in 1992.

Super-Earths are surprisingly abundant in our galaxy and stand as the most likely planets to be habitable.

Since 2009, the Kepler Space Telescope has discovered about 4,000 exoplanets. 30% of them are super-earths and a lot of them orbit within their star’s habitable zone.

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Scientists define super-Earths only by their masses and not by their temperatures, surface conditions, or habitability. A super-Earth is a planet with a mass between 1 and 10 times that of Earth. All that extra mass could make super-Earths the perfect home.

More mass means stronger gravity. Stronger gravity means the planet can hold on to more air molecules. Thus, forming a thicker atmosphere that can protect the world from harmful space radiation.

However, astronomers speculate that super-Earths may be more geologically active than our world, and may experience more vigorous plate tectonics due to thinner plates that are under more stress.

A super-Earth can be all sorts of things. It could be a bigger version of our own Earth – mostly rocky, with an atmosphere – or a mini-Neptune, with a large rock-ice core enclosed in a thick envelope of hydrogen and helium.

But it might also be a water world – a rocky core enveloped in a blanket of water and perhaps an atmosphere of steam (depending on the temperature of the planet).

If we were living on a super-Earth it would be harder for us to leave it and that’s because of the large size. That means a rocket would need more fuel to reach its destination.

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